PUBLISHED: 16:26 14 May 2014 | UPDATED: 16:26 14 May 2014
This year we welcome a foodie paradise to North Cornwall incorporating - among others - a charcuterie, baker and a cheesemaker. CAROL BURNS discovers big plans for Norton Barton Farm as an artisan food village
“We are hoping to have the apple press and distillery there, we want to make apple brandy,” points out Richard Harding as we pass an old stone outbuilding en route to the drying room to meet his meats.
The award-winning Cornish Charcuterie came out of Richard’s love of salami, but mostly from his and wife Fionagh’s desire to create a new rural life for them and their growing family outside of the stresses of London.
“Both Fionagh and myself were in the city and we were not happy doing what we were doing. Our first child was born prematurely and she wasn’t very well and that started the process of looking at what we wanted to do.”
In 2006 Richard, Fionagh and, by then, their four children aged under 10 moved to Norton Barton Farm sitting near Bude and close to the Devon border.
“I was dispatched to look at properties,” remembers Richard of finding what was to be their new home. “I was given strict instructions, ‘no more than 10 acres and a house that doesn’t need any work doing to it’. When I found this place, I fell in love with it. It’s 350 acres and the house needs a lot of work doing to it.”
The next step was to find a new career – and make their new life pay. They began farming at their new home but quickly recognised it was ‘too small to be commercial, but too big to be a hobby’.
Food production seemed the obvious choice and their first thought was artisan sausages. “Within 15 miles of here there are many people doing fabulous sausages, so we decided to do something a bit more complex,” adds Richard.
And so Cornish Charcuterie was born. Both Richard and Fionagh underwent food training – Richard spending time with the Professor of Meat Technology at Stuttgart University – and they launched their first salamis at the Royal Cornwall Show last year and their patés in 2011.
The farm is carbon neutral and pigs are raised on the farm just metres from when the meat is airdryed, and lightly smoked. The farm also has Ruby Red cows and Welsh mountain sheep. The farm is carbon neutral and the growing collection of businesses – which includes (the highly recommended) Made With Love pies and patisserie and Sue Proudfoot cheeses allows them to share more than premises – the whey used in Sue’s cheesemaking business is used to feed the pigs on the farm and parts of the pigs are used in Made with Love’s pies. There are also plans for an artisan bakery and set of incubators for new food businesses looking to set up who can benefit from the more experienced businesses on the farm. A beautifully renovated outbuilding provides office space, and a pop-up restaurant. “We hope to invite guest chefs to cook here,” says Richard. A new training room has been set up where people can join one of their popular sausage making courses – youngsters can make their own before going off into the woods to cook them over a campfire, even hen parties are showing an interest.
Richard is very keen to use local produce – the Cornish Duck Company features in their duck rillette (Richard’s favourite) which resembles crispy aromatic duck and is made with cranberries soaked in Grand Marnier. For non meat-eaters their mushroom pate goes down really well. Sold in pretty jars it can be simply opened and served with fresh toast points (although Fionagh recommends tossing it in pasta for a great supper). They are also working with the Cornish Seaweed Company to create a cider and seaweed salami, also in production is a salami with garlic and walnuts. Traditional foodies may favour their pork rillette, slowly poached pork, complemented with a little salt and pepper – this simple and satisfying treat has won a Taste of the West Gold Award.
“Cornwall has a great reputation with food and by and large it’s well deserved,” says Richard. “We have got some fabulous producers and some tremendous raw ingredients. Some of the producers are absolutely outstanding: their understanding, the food they produce and their passion about what they are doing. This was never the game plan but it’s really evolved and it’s really exciting.”